Choosing the best type of duvet
By Aaron West
From classic feather and down to hollowfibre, wool and silk, we look at the pros and cons of the main types of duvets to help you find the best.
There are many different duvet fillings to choose from, each with its pros and cons.
Hollowfibre, and feather and down, are the two most popular options, though you'll also find duvets in microfibre, wool and silk.
Prices can vary depending on the type of filling, the tog rating – which refers to effectiveness of a material's thermal insulation, using an ascending scale ranging from cool and lightweight low-tog duvets at 1.5 and 3 tog, up to the extra-cosy 15-tog duvet – the size and many other features, meaning some duvets can cost as little as £20, while others can cost more than £700. Plus, as comfort is subjective, what feels cosy for you may not be ideal for everyone.
Read on for our expert tips to help you decide which to buy, the pros and cons or each, and whether an anti-allergy option could be best for you.
If you already know the type of duvet you want, then head over to our list of the best duvet brands.
Hollowfibre duvets: pros and cons
- Pros: Affordable; machine washable; some are hypoallergenic
- Cons: Don't last as long as more expensive duvets; filling can clump together
Hollowfibre duvets are the most popular with our members – more than 40% choose to buy these hard-wearing, affordable duvets.
Hollowfibre is a synthetic material, which can be good for allergy sufferers as it is hypoallergenic. Unlike feather duvets, these can be machine washed regularly, so they are easy to care for.
They can lose their tog value more quickly than natural alternatives, and therefore don’t last quite as long, although a hollowfibre duvet should still last at least five years, if cared for properly. Duvets with natural fillings such as feather and down, or silk, can last as long for a decade.
Feather and down duvets: pros and cons
- Pros: Retains heat; prevents overheating; lasts longer than synthetics if cared for properly
- Cons: More expensive than hollowfibre; has to be professionally laundered; some people can be allergic to the filling
More than 33% of Which? members choose feather and down duvets, making it the second-most popular option. It’s no wonder – these lightweight, cosy duvets retain heat well but still help you to avoid overheating. Plus, if cared for properly, they will last much longer than synthetic fibre alternatives.
As the name suggests, feather and down duvets combine feathers, the outer part of a bird’s plumage, with down, the lighter, fluffier fibres that lie beneath feathers and provide insulation. The ratio of feather to down will affect the duvet's warmth and price.
It's important to note that feather and down aren't always taken from the bird in a humane way. To ensure you're buying a duvet with feathers that have been ethically sourced, you'll need to check with manufacturers and retailers to find out what their policy is.
As well as having a tog rating (see below for more information on these), feather and down duvets are rated by their fill power. The higher the fill power, the larger each individual piece of down will be, resulting in a loftier, fluffier duvet, which provides better insulation.
One downside to all natural duvet fillings, including feather and down, is that you shouldn’t wash them at home as they can lose their filling more easily and are difficult to get completely dry afterwards. If they are cared for properly and professionally laundered, feather and down duvets can last more than twice as long as synthetic alternatives.
Other duvet filling options
- Pros: Retains heat; prevents overheating; resistant to common allergens such as dust mites
- Cons: Can be expensive; needs to be washed gently at a low temperature; can seem flat in comparison with other fillings
Wool is a less common choice of duvet filling. It is similarly priced to feather and down, and excellent at retaining warm air, keeping you warm when cold and removing heat and moisture when you’re warm. Unlike feather and down, it’s naturally hypoallergenic and resistant to dust mites.
Wool is renewable, sustainable and biodegradable, so it’s better for the environment than hollowfibre. Locally sourced wool is usually taken from sheep in a more humane way than feather and down is from ducks and geese, but it is always worth checking with the manufacturer and retailer what their policy on ethical sourcing is.
However, you'll need to be careful when looking after a wool duvet – washing too often and at too high a temperature will reduce its lifespan.
- Pros: Keeps you warm while preventing overheating; naturally resistant to allergens
- Cons: Expensive; needs to be professionally laundered
Often viewed as the height of luxury, silk duvets are naturally hypoallergenic and resistant to dust mites, and therefore ideal for eczema and asthma sufferers. Like wool, silk will help you stay cool in summer and warm in winter. Like all natural fillings though, they will need to be professionally laundered.
- Pros: Lightweight and soft; anti-allergens options available
- Cons: Doesn't regulate heat
Microfibre duvets are a relatively recent addition to the market, but they aren't to be confused with hollowfibre. Microfibres are finer but don't have the hollow space that hollowfibre has. Instead, microfibre is intended to be a synthetic equivalent to down – its extra-fine fibres give the same feel.
It's one of the lightest and most supple fillings, meaning even a 14-tog microfibre duvet will feel light. Some people prefer this as the duvet won't feel heavy on you as you sleep, while others prefer a heavier, more closely hugging duvet. If you're not sure which you'd prefer, make sure you try them out in store before buying.
While microfibre feels similar to down, it is lighter and often cheaper. So if you've always had natural duvets but are looking for a slight change, microfibre might be for you.
Hypoallergenic and anti-allergy duvets: what's the difference?
Hypoallergenic doesn't mean the same thing as anti-allergy, so it's important to know the difference before buying.
Hypoallergenic means that the actual material and filling of the duvet isn't made of a known potential allergen, like feathers or wool. But other allergens, mainly dust mites, can still develop on these types of duvets.
Anti-allergy means the filling and casing will have been treated to resist and combat the development of dustmites. You might find that this type of duvet is good for you if you have asthma, eczema or rhinitis, all of which could be exacerbated by allergens.
But whichever duvet or pillow you buy, dustmites can be killed, and their allergens removed, by washing at temperatures of 60°C and above. If you're looking for bedding to help with allergies, it's therefore important to check that it can endure repeated washing at this temperature or higher - roughly once every one to two months.
To know if you should consider an anti-allergy duvet, you should check to see if you have the symptoms of dust mite allergy.
If you are sensitive or allergic to them, you may have:
- Watery, red eyes when you wake up
- Runny or itchy nose and sneezing in bed
- Sore throat or hoarse voice in the morning
- Coughing and other breathing problems
- Skin rash and itching
- Worsening of your asthma
What is duvet tog?
Tog is a measurement of how thermally insulating, and therefore warm, a duvet is. A high tog (10.5-15) is better for winter, while a low tog (1-4) will be light enough for summer.
Some duvets come in 'four-seasons' or 'all-seasons' sets. With these you get one light duvet (usually about 3.5 tog) and one heavier one (usually about 10.5 tog). The light one will be enough in hot summer months, and the heavy one suits spring and autumn weather. When you need extra warmth in winter, you can combine both.
Standard UK duvet sizes
- Cot bed: 120cm x 150cm
- Single: 135cm x 200cm
- Double: 200cm x 200cm
- King: 230cm x 220cm
- Super King: 260cm x 220cm
- Emperor size: 290cm x 235cm
These all correspond to different mattress sizes. If you tend to feel cold in bed, go for the next size up from your mattress size (for example, if you have a double bed, use a king-size duvet), so that the duvet flows over the edges to keep warm air in and any draughts out.
Buy a duvet from a trusted brand
To find out which are the best duvet brands, in April 2018 we asked 2,144 Which? members to tell us about their duvet. To work out customer scores, we asked what brand of duvet members owned, whether they were satisfied with it, and whether they would recommend it to a friend. We also asked them to rate their duvet for comfort, value for money and how well it matched the description.
Check out our guide to find out what people think of the brand of duvet they own, including how comfortable it is and whether it was good value for money, covering major brands such as Ikea, John Lewis and Dunelm.
If you're a Which? member and would like to take part in our surveys to help shape our magazine and website, click to join our Which? Connect reader panel.